Exclusive: Exec Tells BioSpace Recent Eli Lilly $360 Million Deal Part of Novel Target Strategy

Exclusive: Eli Lilly Tells BioSpace Recent $360 Million Part of Novel Target Strategy
May 13, 2015
By Mark Terry and Riley McDermid, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

A new agreement between Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Company and German company BioNTech is just one more component of an existing relationship Lilly has with the firm that will flesh out its novel target strategy going forward, a spokeswoman told BioSpace this week.

BioNTech announced yesterday that it had signed a research collaboration with a $30 million signing fee to focus on discovering novel cancer immunotherapies.

BioNTech said that partnership is a natural outgrowth of an existing pact it already has in place with a related offshoot. In an interview with BioSpace, BioNTech noted that Lilly invested $30 million in BioNTech’s daughter company, Cell & Gene Therapies, which specializes in TCR and CAR. Essentially, the company spokeswoman said, Lilly invested in a platform and broader pipeline of TCR/CAR programs.

“The collaboration part is aimed to identify and validate novel tumor targets and their corresponding TCRs and is therefore under the umbrella of Cell & Gene Therapies, which is where the investment is made.”

The German company said it had no concrete plans for hiring, saying BioNTech is not sure, yet, if they will bring on more employees as a result of the investment. Regina Jehle, a spokeswoman for the company, told BioSpace, “While we try to optimize the utilization of our staff throughout the company, we will evaluate the option to selectively strengthen our expertise by hiring externally.”

BioNTech and Cell & Gene Therapies’ approaches are to engineer T-cell receptors and CAR to stimulate the body’s immune system to directly attack cancer cells. Other companies using this approach are the U.K’s Adaptimmune Ltd., Juno Therapeutics and Kite Pharma, Inc. .

Adaptimmune, in fact, announced the close of its initial public offering yesterday. Proceeds from the offering hit about $175.7 million.

This agreement between Lilly and BioNTech is consistent with Lilly’s strategic partnership approach to both immuno-oncology and emerging markets.

In March, Lilly inked an alliance with China-based Innovent Biologics. Lilly will provide a cMet monoclonal antibody gene for non-small cell lung cancer, and Innovent will provide a CD-20 monoclonal antibody for blood cancers.

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